Mid-Ohio: Series Friday practice report

DIXON PACES OPENING DAY AT MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE LEXINGTON, Ohio - (Friday, Aug. 7, 2009) Two-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon topped a 60-minute practice session as IndyCar Series teams began preparations for the Honda Indy 200 at...

DIXON PACES OPENING DAY AT MID-OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE

LEXINGTON, Ohio - (Friday, Aug. 7, 2009) Two-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon topped a 60-minute practice session as IndyCar Series teams began preparations for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Dixon recorded a lap of 1:08.2298 (119.139 mph) in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. Justin Wilson, the winner at Watkins Glen International, was second (1:08.6425) in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs car for Dale Coyne Racing and Dario Franchitti (1:08.6760) was third in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry.

Tony Kanaan was fourth (1:08.8390) and Graham Rahal (1:08.9932) was fifth in the No. 02 McDonald's car for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

PEAK Performance Pole Qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance and practice and qualifying for the Firestone Indy Lights' Mid-Ohio 100 is scheduled for Aug. 8.

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DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

This is the third IndyCar Series event held at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Ryan Briscoe is the defending race winner. Helio Castroneves won the Peak Performance Pole Award last year. Scott Dixon (2007) is the only other driver entered that has won at Mid-Ohio in the IndyCar Series.

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Live timing and scoring reports from the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance will be available on the Internet at www.indycar.com. The live timing and scoring module provides statistical information, including track segment speeds, lap information and much more. Feature stories, reports, driver quotes and notes, and photos will be posted on the site each day. More detailed information, including media advisories and VNR coordinates, is available at www.indycar.com/media. The user name is media and the password is indycar. The username and password are case-sensitive. Real-time race information is also available via twitter at www.twitter.com/indycarpr.

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Paul Tracy will drive the #5 Azul - Votorantim - KV Racing Technology Honda/Dallara/Firestone entry this weekend at the Honda Indy 200 as a substitute for Mario Moraes, who will sit out this weekend's race following the passing of his father.

KVRT co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser said, "This is a very sad occasion and on behalf of the entire KV Racing Technology organization we extend our sympathy and condolences to Mario and his family. After lengthy internal discussions, and in consultation with Mario, we decided the best course of action was to have Paul (Tracy), who has driven for the team and is familiar with our systems and personnel, step in and drive this weekend."

Tracy said, "I want to thank KV Racing Technology and Mario for thinking of me during this unfortunate situation. It will be a privilege to drive the #5 Azul - Votorantim entry and I want to dedicate this weekend to achieving the best result possible in honor of Mario and the entire Moraes family."

Tracy will be making his 270th career start, eighth in the IndyCar Series, sixth this season, fifth with KVRT and 12th at Mid-Ohio. In 11 previous starts at Mid-Ohio, Tracy has finished in the top-five seven times including five podiums, one win (2003) and one pole (2003). In five IndyCar starts this year, four with KVRT, he has two top-10 finishes including a season high sixth two weeks ago in Edmonton and a ninth at this year's Indy 500, both with KVRT.

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HVM Racing will run two cars in the IndyCar Series for the remainder of the 2009 season after signing Robert Doornbos to drive for the team through 2010. The deal returns the Dutch driver to the team for which he won Champ Car Rookie of the Year honors in 2007.

Doornbos will drive the No. 33 car beginning with this weekend's race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The 27-year-old Doornbos drove for HVM Racing in 2007 when the team competed in Champ Car under the name Team Minardi USA. He celebrated victories at Mont-Tremblant and San Jose, finished the season third in the championship standings and captured Rookie of the Year honors.

"I am very happy to rejoin (HVM team principal and owner) Keith Wiggins, (HVM engineer and strategist) Michael Cannon and HVM Racing," said Doornbos. "I was very successful with this team in 2007. My mission is to become Rookie of the Year again with this young and eager team. I like to thank Keith for his confidence in my driver skills and look forward to the first race for HVM next weekend."

"We are happy to have Robert return to the team," said Wiggins. "He had a very good year with us in '07 and he has a great deal of experience behind the wheel, so he will be a good addition to our team. And, of course, everyone in our organization knows him and likes him, so we'll just be picking up where we left off with him two years ago."

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Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing announced that Spaniard Oriol Servia, 35, will drive the team's No. 06 entry at this weekend's Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

"I'm very pleased about this opportunity for many reasons," said Servia. "First, I am excited to be back in the cockpit where I should be and, second, it reunites me with the team that I had the most success with in my career. It's not ideal in terms of preparation time but the last time we did this with the same amount of notice, we ended up on the podium so I don't see why that can't happen again. I would like to thank Carl and Mike for thinking of me and I won't let them down."

Servia returns to the team after having served as the replacement driver for Bruno Junqueira, who was injured in the 2005 Indianapolis 500. He finished third in his debut with the team at the Milwaukee Mile and went on to finish on the podium a total of seven times in 11 races including his win at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal. He earned his first series pole in Australia and made a total of four front row starts en route to a career-best second place rank in the 2005 season-ending standings.

"Oriol did a fabulous job when he drove for the team in 2005 and I am confident he will do as well now," said Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing with Michael Lanigan. "The combination of Oriol's talent, energy and personality and the team's excitement in having him back is as good as it gets."

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Gil de Ferran says he's realized one objective and will pursue another with a two-car IndyCar Series team for the 2010 season.

De Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 champion, announced that he will retire from sports car driving at the completion of the American LeMans Series season to focus on de Ferran Motorsports entering the IndyCar Series.

"Throughout my career, I've always been driven by challenges," de Ferran said at a news conference at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. "While I've enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the No. 66 XM Radio DFM Acura ARX-02a, my main focus moving forward is to continue to build our team into a world-class motorsports organization.

"I feel that by returning to the cockpit for the past year, I have been competitive and added value to our team as a driver. Overall, I also feel we succeeded in developing this program to a point where I can now step down and dedicate 100 percent of my time to expanding our team."

Robert Clarke, the former president of Honda Performance Development and now executive director of de Ferran Motorsports, also is dedicated to the program.

"It's been in the works since I came on board," Clark said of the IndyCar Series plan. "I think we have some decent prospects on sponsorship and some unique ideas that could be appealing to sponsors. We have a lot of energy for it; we're working around the clock."

Sponsorship details certainly don't escape de Ferran, who recently moved his family from the United Kingdom to the Miami area.

"(Running two cars in the IndyCar Series and ALMS) is a dream, and part of the reason I'm stepping out of the cockpit is to fulfill this dream," de Ferran said. "The (IndyCar Series) is so competitive that if we want to run well the sooner we start the better. The secret of this sport, which is really no secret at all, is preparation. We need time, we need skilled personnel and we need money. If we start too late, our chances of being competitive from the start diminish.

"We have great partnerships today and you need good partners to move forward. Expanding to IndyCar is a natural. My background is mostly in Indy car, it's a sport I understand well and I know a lot of the personnel. I'm confident we can attract additional talented personnel to make this team work well, which is the key to our success."

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POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fastest of the day): I think more of it is a credit to that we tested here. Both cars were quick obviously. We waited for the track to grip up a little bit. At the test, we had the same issue. From the start of the test to the end was almost four seconds difference. We had a pretty good balance. It seemed quite good. The track is pretty inconsistent in some areas but, it's a good way to start. I think a lot of it is credited to the test. We just found a few things that make the car a little bit better but it's in the early days here. Anything can change tomorrow.

(About strategy for practice session before qualifying): "I think the same. Obviously, just try to be as quick as possible. Tomorrow I think weather-wise it might be a little bit different. We might have some rain. That changes everything for qualifying then as well. Every session that we run, we're just going to try and be as quick as possible."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs, second-fastest): "The track was really slippery to start with and we had to make a lot of changes early on to get the car to work on this low-grip surface. It posed quite a challenge. I'm really pleased; Dale Coyne Racing got right on top of it. They were able to turn the car around and be really quick. I know the pace is going to pick up more, so we're just trying to make the most of it. Hopefully we'll have another good weekend and I'm going to be pushing to get our second win.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, third-fastest): "They've done something with a sealer or something on the track and the track has very, very low grip. You can see that with the ALMS cars as well, how slow they were relative to their performance last year and the same with Indy car. It's just very, very low grip. We're just waiting for people to rubber in the track a little bit. We made a fairly lengthy change after my first run and that didn't leave us much time. We're getting there. We kind of bracketed it. We had too much oversteer one run and too much understeer the other run. When we get it sorted, I think we'll be in good shape."

(About strategy for qualifying): "You've got to be on it. With the split groups, that's going to be the hardest part is the split groups at the start (and) when to use the Firestone reds and just getting a good, clean lap on the limit."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske): "The track was not very fast today, so we waited for a good portion of the session before we went out. The Team Penske car looks good and I feel like we are on the right track. I don't think we will be doing any big changes going into tomorrow. I am looking forward to trying the push to pass option in warm-up on Sunday as I think it will add another element of excitement to the racing. I always like competing at Mid-Ohio and I am excited for a good weekend."

PAUL TRACY (No. 5 Azul Tequila/Votorantim/KVRT): "First of all, my heart goes out to the entire Moraes family for their loss. I want to thank Mario and KV Racing Technology for this opportunity. This is not the way any driver wants to get back in the car, but I am going to use this opportunity to dedicate the weekend to the Moraes family.

(About practice): "I am really happy with the way the day went for the Azul/Votorantim/KV Racing Technology team. I haven't driven here since 2003, but the track came back to me right away and the team did a great job. I just hope Mario and his family are doing well. The entire team is here to do the best we can, and hopefully get a great result this weekend for him and his family."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "We were able to take a couple short runs this afternoon, but unfortunately, we got stuck behind traffic. The Team Penske car felt good out there, and I think we'll be fine for the rest of the weekend. We just need to get some clean laps tomorrow morning to see exactly where we sit."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "It's always nice to come back to Mid-Ohio. The track is a lot of fun. The McDonald's car was getting progressively better there at the end. We were getting pretty close, and I'm definitely happy with that. If we had a little bit newer tires, like some of those guys had on there at the end, we would have been looking pretty darn good. It's always nice to be here, and it's nice not to have to travel far to get to the track. It's relaxing here and there is a lot of fan support and that's always exciting for me."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "It was fun and challenging, honestly, to get back in a car on a road course. You want to get things done quickly and get used to the car and get a feel for the car, and we did that. The team gave me great car that was fast right away. The car was faster than me, but I will get there. I was happy with how everything felt, and I just have to get used to it to be able to get the best out of it because this is a track where every little thing counts at the end."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): "It was a good day. I think the test here helped us a lot. The track was really dirty so it's hard to judge. Tomorrow is definitely going to be a different day with all the cars running yet tonight and in the morning, but I'm pleased. It's been a while since we've been in the top-five in the first session on a road course, so it feels good."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Meijer): "Not a bad way to start the weekend for the Meijer boys. We definitely gained some good information when we tested here a couple weeks ago and I think that showed today. Hopefully we can use today's practice notes and put them to use them for a strong result for the #26 car this weekend."

E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA/HVM Racing): "We had a very clean and smooth session. Things went pretty well. We did improve the car. We went in different directions for setup and at the end, we had an idea, given the track situation. We did a pretty good lap time. We still have some more in our pocket. We're pretty happy. It should be a great weekend for us."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 33 HVM Racing): "First of all, I'm happy to be back working with the people here at HVM, a lot of familiar faces. I'm also getting to know my crew and it's the first time that I've been to Mid-Ohio, so I was learning the track. We obviously have some work to do, but I think it was a solid first day. I'd like to thank the team for all the effort they've done the last few days to prepare the car. We just need to work on it, step by step, and I think we're going to have a good weekend.

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE:
8:30 - 9:15 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights practice
9:30 - 10:30 a.m. IndyCar Series practice
11:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights qualifying
12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. IndyCar Series PEAK Performance qualifying

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jimmy Vasser , Bruno Junqueira , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Graham Rahal , Robert Doornbos , Ryan Briscoe , Carl Haas , Chip Ganassi , Kevin Kalkhoven , Mario Moraes , Dale Coyne , Robert Clark
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , HVM Racing , Dale Coyne Racing